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At the Thursday Island Yarn Up, Rosie Ware spoke to us about her family’s World War II experience, about the men who served in the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion, and the women, children and other family members who had to cope on the outer islands home front while the men were serving.
We also visited the Torres Strait Islander Heritage Museum which holds numerous images of Torres Strait Islander people’s defence service and the Torres Strait Islander Light Infantry Battalion memorial on Thursday Island.
In an interview conducted on Thursday Island in 2011, Marsat Ketchell spoke about enlisting in the Navy as a junior recruit and serving for 26 years. Marsat was one of a group of Torres Strait Islander boys who joined up at the same time, and it was not long before he served on both HMAS Sydney and HMAS Vampire deployed to Vietnam in a logistic support role. After Vietnam Marsat travelled extensively with the Navy, to Canberra, Darwin, England, Germany, the Pacific and many other places in a number of different roles, from clearing World War 2 ordinance in PNG to training counter–piracy staff in the Philippines.
In another interview on Thursday Island in 2011, George Akee spoke about his service in the army, including his basic training at Kapooka and Singleton and how difficult it was physically, and about the racism he experienced, ‘man it was the hardest time of my life. But it strengthened me … to what I am today.’ During his time in the Army as a machine gunner, George had the opportunity to travel and train internationally including in Malaysia, New Zealand and the USA.